Ask Abby

First Time Visitors

A Warning About Virus Warnings

This week I received an e-mail from a friend warning about a virus that was likely to have infected my computer. The e-mail (which she was forwarding to everyone in her address book, as had the person who sent it to her and the person before that) instructed us to delete a file the supposed virus had created, claiming that it would otherwise corrupt the computer. Unfortunately, this warning was a hoax and the file it named was necessary for the proper operation of the computer. Shame on the person who started this rumor! It has now been sent on to thousands of people!

Let it be a lesson to us all not to forward e-mail from someone who is forwarding it along after it had been forwarded to them without checking its authenticity. These are the e-mails that show an endless listing of past recipients before you get to the actual e-mail message. This goes for virus warnings, as well as tragic tales where you’re instructed to forward it so some unfortunate can get a $1 for every e-mail sent in their honor and chain letters that threaten bad luck if they’re broken.

Sometimes these forwarded e-mails are research for a school paper and we’re the student’s unwitting guinea pigs. Or, it may be someone with an enormous ego wanting to see how far their bogus e-mail will travel. Either way, you become an accomplice by blindly passing on the message.

Here’s some advice before passing on an e-mail:

  1. If the e-mail refers to a virus, call your computer manufacturer to check its validity. Alternatively, you can check for current viruses and hoaxes at this web site address: (Note: Do NOT precede the web address with www.)
  2. Call the medical institution that is supposedly going to donate money for every e-mail sent in the name of the poor unfortunate. Chances are they won’t know what you’re talking about.
  3. Send the chain letter back to the person who sent it to you—10 times! Hopefully, they’ll remove you from their chain letter list.

We all remember the rumors that began in the playground and haunted us through the school day. Think twice before you forward an e-mail. That person you knew in the playground may be all grown up and sitting at a computer up to their old tricks.